To somewhat consolidate my memories of New Zealand, I decided to break them up into the 5 senses--Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell, and Touch.
I'll start with the obvious, Sight. There is so much to remember in all that I've seen in NZ. The scenery, of course, takes top billing! The colors alone were amazing--the vibrant blues of the water and the ice; particularly Huka Falls and Fox Glacier. Then there was every shade of green imaginable! Often all at the same time! All the ferns, the symbol of New Zealand. I saw huge Fern trees everyday. The jungle rainforest that meets right up with the glaciers! The white of the snow-capped Southern Alps were magnificent. The landscape formed by glaciers have made even the rock different. Then there was Punakaiki, the "Pancake Rocks". They were slabs of rock stacked for some unknown geological reason.
I saw geysers and bubbling pools of mud at Te Puia in Rotorua (I'll get to the smell).
The darkness of Waitomo Caves and the experiences Leandra and I had on the Black Abyss Tour for forever be etched in my mind! The pinpricks of turquoise light created by the Glow-worms both at Waitomo and on the Minnehaha walk at Fox Glacier Village were very cool! It was all so surreal.
Of course, the Dart River Valley as seen from the seat of a jet boat as well as a 4WD was spectacular!
To adequately describe the sounds of New Zealand is impossible. The deafening cicadas heard almost everyday. In fact, it was strange when I didn't hear them! Then there were the birds. I don't know which birds were making what sound (except the Keas), but it was always a tropical sound. I could use the sounds of the birds to distract me when I was climbing a long hill. I would wake to them in the morning (sometimes earlier than I planned!).
Then there were the two least desirable sounds...wind and rain. Rain on the tent in the middle of the night was never a good sign! The roar of the tent-flattening wind in Picton is something I would prefer to never experience again!
As far as taste goes, I have to admit, I was not the most adventurous eater in New Zealand. Leandra was much better at that. Food was mostly just fuel to me. I could eat the same things everyday and not really care. That being said, there were a few foods I really liked. One was the meat pies, particularly the Mince and Cheese. I loved those meat and cheese filled pastries! I also downed my share of Whittaker's Coconut Block chocolate bars. And, the Hokey Pokey ice cream really was what it's all about!
There are really two smells that will remain in my mind. The sulphur smell of the geo-thermal areas and the road kill. We had heard ahead of time that the smell in Rotorua was pretty bad. That was true but, surprisingly, I got used to it. However, the same can't be said about the road kill. In that case, it all depended on how the wind was blowing. I saw more dead animals (if you don't count the sheep and cows) than live ones. I never saw a live possum or hedgehog. Of course, with the Bushy-Tailed Possum being the No. 1 pest in New Zealand, hitting them with a car is seen as a patriotic duty!
As for Touch, strangely, I will remember the softness of the Possum fur. Gloves, socks and hats are just some of the products made with a blend of possum and merino wool. Possum is supposedly some of the softest and warmest fur. It's just too bad the little varmints are destroying the forests.
Of course there are memories that don't neatly fall into one of the 5 senses. The availability of kitchens at every holiday park and even an occasional DoC campground was a surprise. I carried a full fuel canister for the entire North Island! Even my cookware was not always needed.
Riding on the left side of the road was, at first, a thinking process. By the end, it was second nature. I no longer had to think about it, even in the roundabouts.
Finally, the one memory that encompasses all the senses (except maybe smell) would have to be the people I met. The Kiwis are indeed a friendly bunch. Particularly those in the tourism industry (which is ALOT of them). But, I also met so many people from all over the world. I won't list them all, but a few must be named as they were instrumental in the enjoyment of my trip. Austrian, Gerald, was a great guy! I had seen him twice, when he pulled over and gave me a ride to Fox Glacier when it was pouring down rain. Because of him, I got to see Franz Josef Glacier. He will always be my favorite Austrian!
Canadians, Dick and Pauline are new friends! I first met them in Greymouth. They noticed I was a cyclist as they are kindred bike tourers themselves (on a campervan tour this time). Then, when I pulled off at Ships Creek on the way to Haast they were there too! And, when I was riding toward the holiday park in Wanaka, I heard my name. It was Dick and Pauline! They told me of a better place to stay in Wanaka and we spent the evening together there.
A few other people I just have to mention...Australians, Bronwen and Jeffrey, Japanese, Tatsuya, French guys, Nico and Antoine, Londoners, Steve and Nancy, and Israeli, Tal. There are many more...the World comes to New Zealand!
For anyone reading this blog who may be contemplating a trip to New Zealand, I say, DO IT!!! It will be the trip of a lifetime! Also, if you're going to do it on a bike, I highly recommend North to South (and MORE than 5 weeks!).